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UK ministers commit to ‘ending throwaway culture’ in fast fashion

A consultation launched by the Government could see fast fashion retailers handed minimum standards for how long their clothes must last
More than 920,000 tonnes of fabric is thrown out in UK household waste each year

The UK Government has put forward a set of new measures to crack down on waste across the fashion industry and keep the country on track to help reverse the climate crisis.

Fast fashion retailers could face having to increase the recycled materials used to make their clothes as well as being hit with minimum standards for how long clothes last.

The consultation proposes setting requirements for manufacturers to extend the lifetime of the things they produce, such as by providing spare parts and ensuring products are made to be repaired rather than thrown away.

“Major retailers and fashion brands have made strides in reducing their environmental footprint but there is more we must do,” said Rebecca Pow, environment minister, adding that the Government would incentivise recycling and encourage better design to ensure products last long-term.

“We are firmly committed to ending the ‘throwaway’ culture as we build back greener,” she said.

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The fashion industry accounts for around four per cent of all global carbon emissions each year, the Government said, while textiles production around the world creates the same amount of greenhouse gases as France, Germany and the UK combined.

Brits bought 20 per cent more clothes in 2016 compared to 2012, ministers warned in the updated Waste Prevention Programme (WPP), meaning more than 920,000 tonnes of fabric was thrown out in household waste each year.

The Government has joined forces with sustainability experts WRAP on Textiles 2030, a voluntary agreement for fast fashion giants to work together on hitting carbon and water reduction targets. Launching in April, it could halve the impact of textiles sold in the UK by 2030, according to the (WPP).

When we throw things away, we waste all the carbon, water, materials and labour that have gone into making them,” said Marcus Gover, CEO of WRAP.

“We will not achieve net zero without taking action on the way we produce, use and dispose of the products we rely on to live our lives.”

The Sustainable Clothing Action Plan, launched in 2012 and also coordinated by WRAP, saw major retailers like M&S and ASOS reduce their collective water and carbon footprint by 19.5 and 15.9 per cent respectively.

The WPP consultation, closing on June 10, suggests imposing similar requirements on the construction, furniture, electrical, car and plastic industries too in the effort to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.